Opening Statements: Wizards at Clippers, Game 69 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Clippers, Game 69

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Updated: March 20, 2015

Washington Wizards vs Los Angeles Clippers - Feb. 4, 2013

What have the Clippers been up to?

Well, since the beginning of February: Lost 4 in a row; won 4 in a row; lost 2 in a row; won 3 in a row; lost 2 in a row; won 2; lost 2; won 2. Total: 11-10.

Seven of those games came on national TV, six were losses. The most recent was a two-point loss to the Rockets in L.A. last Sunday, Blake Griffin’s first game since Feb. 2. Griffin has double-doubled in each of his three games since returning to action (he was sidelined with a staph infection in his right elbow). In games two and three, the Clips took care of Charlotte and Sacramento with relative ease.

Interestingly enough, Hornets coach Steve Clifford matched up Michael Kidd-Gilchrist versus Chris Paul that game. Paul shot 6-for-16 from the field, but 4-for-7 from 3 and 5-for-6 on free throws to score 21 points. According to NBA.com player tracking data, Paul was 4-for-10 (2-3 on 3s) with MKG in guarding area. So the jury is still out on how effective that strategy was; I still like it.

I also like what might transpire between Paul and John Wall tonight. You’ll recall that the Wizards dominated the Clippers in D.C. way back on Dec. 12, 2014. The Wizards entered halftime up 57-42 and kept the Clippers at a distance in the second half, winning 104-96. The stat lines of Wall and Paul do not come close to indicating how the matchup actually played out.

Paul: 35 mins, 19 pts (7-14 FGs, 1-4 3s, 4-4 FTs), 7 rebs, 6 asts, 6 TOs.

Wall: 38 mins, 10 pts (4-10 FGs, 2-2 3s, 0-0 FTs), 1 reb, 11 asts, 3 TOs.

Well, maybe the assist-to-turnover ratio is a good indicator. Paul still shot 5-for-8 with Wall as the closest defender, but got hounded by Wall to the point where—and this is nothing new—Paul did what he had to do to try to get under Wall’s skin, i.e., cheat. Wall returned the favor with rejection.

TAI’s Chris Thompson with the narrative from that night:

With the first half winding to a close, Washington’s early edge and crowd-fueled momentum were in danger of being mostly for naught, as the usual combination of less-than-ideal shot selection and a disconcertingly lackluster turn from their normally stalwart bench kept the Wiz from building much of a cushion. With 2:14 left on the clock, the home team clung to a six-point lead against a Clippers team capable of throwing together a double-digit run quicker than you can say “Cromnibus.”

That is when John Wall happened. Optimus Dime transformed suddenly from his humble human point guard disguise into a massive mechanized laser-blasting Gobot. In this metaphor, Chris Paul is Megatron, if Megatron took special pride in pretending to fall over every few minutes and then making disingenuous pleas for redress. Can you be a Point God if you cheat? Do they make cheating gods? Who do we talk to about that?

This was a bad stretch for Mr. Paul, who’d been mostly a quiet non-factor to that point, accruing six points and three assists at the helm of a sleepy Clippers offense. In short, Wall ate him up, harassing him into two quick turnovers, dropping a 3 in his mug, driving him into the paint with a wicked full-speed crossover before whipping the ball to Bradley Beal for another 3, and throwing in a soaring, savage block of a Glen Davis layup for giggles. The lead ballooned from six to 15 points, and the Clippers never came close to recovering. L.A.’s mojo milkshake had been utterly drunk by Washington’s whirling dervish in one spectacular sequence of two-way brilliance. They’d been demoralized! An early haymaker connected with their competitive pride muscle and crushed it flat.

The same tonight, however, can hardly be expected. Paul and his team, leading up the playoffs, will be extra focused. And as Roscoe Whalan put it in a 3-on-3 in which I took part over at ClipperBlog.com: “2015 Wall can definitely disrupt Paul defensively, however, they say elephants never forget and neither does CP3. In LA, I’d expect him to seek vengeance for last time they met.”

As I also noted in that 3-on-3 that Wall loves L.A. like Randy Newman. He’ll be up for the matchup, no doubt. But it remains to be seen if over-confidence might haunt a Wizards team on a five-game winning streak. Tell me you have to think it might happen, if even expect it to happen.

Speaking of matchups, Hedo Turkoglu—yes, that Hedo Turkoglu—has started the last two games for L.A. Paul Pierce is thanking his lucky stars. Otherwise, Nene and Gortat versus Griffin and Jordan will be a treat, but more important is what will Bradley Beal do to stop J.J. Redick from getting off early (Redick averages 6.4 points per first quarter, 13th-most in the NBA). Even MORE important: what will the Big Panda do to counter? Take pull-up shots on the move that he thinks are good? Drive to the rim with hesitancy only to get stuffed? Dribble the air out the ball trying to maneuver around screens? Do a three-person tango with Nene, ball in hand, and Beal’s defender, trying to get open to receive a hand-off that quite possibly could put Beal further away from the basket with no clear advantage?

Not to be too hard on the kid, but Washington’s success will ultimately depend on how much of a groove Beal gets into down the stretch. Also remaining to be seen: whether he will ever need to be deprogrammed from ‘take what the defense gives you’  / ‘there is no such thing has passing up an ‘OK’ look that you ‘think’ is an open look for what actually is a better look’ mantras that have been implanted in his head by old school methods like scientists in Clockwork Orange. Beal can be a great shooter, if used right.

Where were we again? Oh yea, speaking of Roscoe Whalan (@RoscoeWhalan7), he’s also here to answer some questions. Let us go (keep scrollin’).


Teams: Wizards at Clippers
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Clippers fav’d by 7 points.


 

#1) If the playoffs started today, looks like the Clippers would be the 5-seed playing the 4-seed Trail Blazers. Of course, a ton of shifting could happen before it’s all is said and done. Of the likely matchups, which one would be most favorable for the Clippers and which one would be most unfavorable?

@RoscoeWhalan7: Well, to set the boundaries of this question I’m going to assume the following: the Clippers finish between 5 and 7 and the current top four remains as is (in no particular order), which seems likely. Memphis would be the obvious matchup that triggers shudders. No one wants to be #GritnGround out in the first round again. In terms of a favorable opponent, L.A. would like its chances against Houston. The Clippers play the Rockets well, and J.J. Redick usually troubles Harden (Exhibit A: Harden’s 9 points on 3-for-12 shooting in early February). Plus, the uncertainty around Howard and now Jones makes their frontcourt extra thin.

#2) Jamal Crawford seems like the main X-factor for L.A., but who’s next after him (obviously not counting the ‘Big 3’ of Paul, Griffin, and Jordan)?

@RoscoeWhalan7J.J. Redick. For a long time, he has been the unsung hero for the Clippers. He’s like Kyle Korver West. With the absence of Griffin, Redick played a ton of minutes and shouldered even more of the offense. On the season he’s averaging a career-high 15.6 points per game on 42 percent shooting from deep. Raw numbers aside, he’s an essential cog in the Clippers’ No. 1 ranked offense. Watching opponents chase him off of screens is a thing of beauty (and helps wear out his defenders on the opposite end). He’s also a willing defender who keeps his rotations and plays smart team defense.

#3) Is Doc Rivers overrated as a coach or the perfect man for the job?

@RoscoeWhalan7Bring back the separation of powers! He’s still a good coach; he has the respect of the players and draws up some tricky after-timeout plays, but the line between Coach Doc and GM Doc is becoming increasingly blurred. Coach Doc continues to deal himself a rough hand thanks to a plethora of poor decisions made as GM. (Shoutout to Jordan Farmar and Chris Douglas-Roberts wherever you are!) Doc only trusts six guys on the roster and will ride them until the bitter end.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.